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Steam Machine Ultra

The money-no-object build


Asus RoG Maximus VI Impact - £180 / $270

After the chassis this is going to be the other important choice in the build. Valve has opted for Intel CPUs for its prototype and you can pick up some excellent mini-ITX motherboards for its chips.

As we're putting together a seriously high-powered gaming rig it seems churlish not to include the beautiful Asus RoG Maximus VI Impact. It builds on the quality P8Z77-I Deluxe mini-ITX board of the last generation and offers top-end performance in a tiny form factor.


Intel Core i7-4770K - £240 / $330

That RoG motherboard will allow for a healthy chunk of overclocking, especially with a decent cooler attached to it. For that reason I'm going to have to opt for the top Intel Core i7-4770K, as it will deliver up to 4.6GHz while barely breaking a sweat. You wont get that here, with the cooler restrictions of the chassis, but that wont really impact upon your gaming performance at this high level.

The eight threads of the fully HyperThreaded i7 means that, in comparison with the resolutely quad-core i5, you will actually get higher minimum frame rates in-game. You wont find the average frame rate jumping, but with the low end getting a boost games will feel smoother.

CPU Cooler

Gelid SlimHero - £22 / $34

Gelid's SlimHero is an excellent low profile cooler that is still powerful enough to be able to cope with an overclocked CPU, if only just. It's very slight, but the large 120mm fan will ensure you don't end up with a whiny cooler sitting atop your processor.


Crucial Ballistix Tactical LP DDR3 - £160 / $200

The important thing for a small form factor build is space. When you're working with a powerful, compact cooler like the Gelid, you need to be mindful of the memory you're using. Crucial's Ballistix Tactical LP DDR3 are beautifully designed DIMMs that will sneak under the radar of any overbearing CPU cooler and you can pick up a 16GB kit with a pair of 8GB modules to fill out the dual DIMM slots of the RoG motherboard.

Graphics card

Nvidia GTX Titan - £780 / $1020

What can I say here? If you're talking about the very best then there really is only one graphics card to go for, and hang the expense. Nvidia's GTX Titan is the most powerful single-GPU around (at least until AMD gets all Hawaii on our desktop GPUs) and that's also the top card in the Valve prototype machine so you know it's going to get some SteamOS compatibility lovin' too.

To be honest though it's a total overkill for this rig, and when the GTX 780 (also one of the cards in the prototype) is considerably cheaper with almost identical gaming performance, it really would take a total money-no-object build to consider the Titan a realistic choice.


Samsung 840 EVO SSD, 1TB - £500 / $600

It simply has to be a question of solid state storage for a top-end machine these days. I've been running SSDs in my machines for years and I don't think I could ever go back unless there was no other alternative. In a budget machine, sure, you can get away with an old fashioned disk drive, but for a proper top gaming rig it has to be solid state. And the king at the moment is Samsung, with their speedy, great value 840 EVO offerings. You can pick up a 1TB EVO drive now and that is more than enough to be getting on with.


EVGA Hadron Air - £160 / $190

This is actually the hardest part of the Valve prototype to get a bead on. Currently there are no chassis around that will enable you to do what Valve is creating with their own bespoke case. That's because the enclosure Valve is designing for the prototype is less than 3-inches in height .

They're going to do this by using a 90º riser card for the PCIe slot so they can lay the graphics card on its front rather than having it stand vertically in the case. Nothing I've seen in the market does this right now in the gaming PC space.

So, what to do? Well, there are relatively small alternatives that allow you to use full size graphics card. The latest one is EVGA's Hadron Air and it's my favourite small form factor chassis right now. It even comes with its own installed 500W PSU. My only reservation with the Hadron is that it precludes the use of a closed-loop water cooler installed inside the chassis.

Total price: £2045 / $2644

Yep, that sure is a lot. But these are the choicest components, the priciest and most powerful small form-factor tech in their field. It's the limousine of Steam machines, impressive, but slightly unnecessary. Let's see what we can build on a budget.

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.